Q

How do I choose a good SAN virtualization solution?

How do I choose a good SAN virtualization solution?

My company has been working on a Dell PowerVault 650 for the last four years. We have a need to upgrade to a more robust solution. We need a SAN solution that will Scale 224 disks and 16 TB of storage. We are interested in virtualization and the ability to span multiple disks.

Can you send me five vendors that you would recommend for a SAN solution and vendors who make software virtualization?

Chris Poelker responded:

The Compaq/HP EVA uses "Versastor" virtualization within the array that automatically spreads I/O load across the entire array. Very fast box.

The HDS 9570V integrates port virtualization via "host storage domains", that allows up to 128 different operating systems per port with NSPOF.

The LSI E4600 supports up to 224 drives and you'll get around 17 TB with 72 GB drives. The LSI box also has a pleasant interface.

Dell also resells the EMC Clariion line. The CX600 can hold 240 drives, has eight front-end interfaces and can now also hold ATA disks.

Xiotech sells an array that is capable of virtual pooling of storage across multiple physical arrays with failover capabilities and a very pretty interface.

The HP CASA solution also can virtualize multiple pools and virtual failover.

FalconStore sells a solution that provides virtualization across multiple storage pools, failover, replication and multi-protocol access.

Datacore sells virtualization software that is also being OEM'ed by other storage vendors. In other words, they have a great software solution.

SGI sells a storage solution that includes their CXFS SAN file system that gives you multiple access from different OS environments to the same storage. In other words, SAN virtualization in a box.

The list goes on and on and each solution has advantages and disadvantages. The best and most unbiased way to find out which solution will be best for your needs is to:

1. Create an RFI/RFP and put it out to bid by the multiple vendors.

2. After reviewing the responses, select the best 3 that seems to fit your needs.

3. Bring each solution in house as a "try and buy" and play with them.

4. The actual hardware is only part of a complete solution. Make sure you are happy with the viability of the company, the service and support offerings (break something while testing, and see if it "really" phones home and someone shows up to fix it). Make sure all the software you are planning to use works as advertised, the solution is easy to use or provides scripting capabilities for automation, has good management and reporting software and most important of all, the ongoing total cost of ownership fits within your expectations and budget. Purchase price is one thing, professional services prices and ongoing maintenance/operational/management/software costs can sometimes be more expensive than the hardware itself.

I have a complete chapter in my book on the correct questions to ask during an RFI. You can find it at Amazon.com or any large bookstore. Just ask for "Storage Area Networks for Dummies."

Chris

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This was first published in September 2003

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